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New discussion paper looks at the role of mental illness in suicide prevention

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Adelaide, Australia: Today at Suicide Prevention Australia’s National Suicide Prevention Conference, Chief Executive Nieves Murray will launch a paper that challenges Australia’s view of the role of mental illness when it comes to suicide prevention.

Research shows people living with complex mental illness are 13-45 times more likely to take their own life their own life than those living without mental illness. For people living with:

  • Borderline personality disorder the risk is 45 times greater
  • Anorexia nervosa the risk is 31 times greater
  • Major depressive disorder the risk is 20 times greater
  • Bipolar disorder is 17 times greater
  • Schizophrenia the risk is 13 times greater

Ms Murray calls for government, business and community to play their part in the delivering the change that is recommended to prevent suicide of those living with mental illness.

“To support more people with mental illness to live longer lives, we must implement prevention strategies focused on increasing mental health literacy, reducing stigma and increasing access to care. We must implement system level improvements that integrate mental health and suicide prevention planning. We must invest in improved education, training and resourcing for those in health and social support roles. We must invest in strategic research and evaluation to better understand suicide and its prevention.”

Suicide Prevention partnered with SANE Australia to develop this paper in conjunction with a panel of people with personal and professional expertise.

SANE Australia General Manager of Research, Policy and Programs Dr Michelle Blanchard, who co-authored the report, says suicide is a complex issue and mental health services have a crucial role to play in helping address the associated risks.

“Given what we know about this higher risk of suicide for those living with mental illness, it’s vital suicide prevention strategies aim to grow mental health literacy, reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, promote access to evidence-based care and are developed in collaboration with people who have experience living with mental illness. We also know certain social and environmental factors that can exacerbate mental illness can also play a role in suicide including trauma, discrimination, social isolation, unemployment or homelessness.”

SANE Australia ambassador Terri Warner lives with bipolar disorder and has attempted to take her own life requiring emergency medical intervention.

“Before I attempted suicide, I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t see a way out and found myself in an intolerable moment that I didn’t think would end, but that I desperately wanted to be over. I had exhausted what I thought were all of the possibilities and was so trapped by what I was thinking and feeling that I couldn’t reason, problem solve or find any resemblance of hope that there was a way forward,” Ms Warner said.

“I believe it’s important mental health professionals work with each individual to help manage those kinds of feelings, as what works for one person won’t work for everyone. It took me a long time to realise the strategies that work for me. It’s time we thought outside the box in our approach to suicide prevention and listen to, rather than challenge, people who have attempted suicide.”


Media contacts:

  • Kim Borrowdale, Suicide Prevention Australia, 0406 149 099, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Ellen Sproule, SANE Australia, 0407 367 215, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Last updated: 24 July 2018
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